Have you ever failed at something? It is very likely that you have. Maybe you have never experienced a notable failure in your life. That may be. But why haven’t you failed? Are you one of the many who find yourself unable to step out and try new things for fear of failing? If so, this article is personally written for you.
It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
― Theodore Roosevelt
At some point or another it happens to everyone who tries to do something new, whatever that ‘something’ may actually be. Even the most successful people in the history of the world have failed somewhere along the way. Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney, among many other very notably successful people, all failed before becoming the successes that we remember them as today.
Failure is part of life. No one sets out with the goal to fail. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Failures are simply part of the process of trying new things and are often the stepping-stones in our journey towards success. I would even argue that our great failures in life make possible our greatest successes.
The only people who do not fail are the ones who do not try. Not trying is not an acceptable excuse for avoiding failure. In fact, not trying is a condition worse than failure.
But, I’m not really talking about failing. At the very core what I’m talking about is: succeeding. In order to have a positive outlook for trying something new I believe it is important to have permission to fail. If you try to do something new, innovative or risky it is very possible that you will fail before you succeed. My goal is to inspire Christian entrepreneurs, businesspeople, artists, musicians, students, inventors, and anyone who is interested in discovering the possibilities of a life without fear of failure.
I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.
– Tony Robbins
If I were to rattle off some famous names like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Jerry Seinfeld and Henry Ford, you could probably very easily describe something about each of them. No surprise, they are all very well known for their successes. What probably won’t come to mind is their personal failures, of which there are many!
It’s not a laughing matter
Have you ever heard of Jerry Seinfeld? The better question would be: who hasn’t heard of Jerry Seinfeld?
So, who is Jerry Seinfeld? He’s co-creator of the Seinfeld show and one of the most famous and successful comedians in history. The Seinfeld show ran for nine seasons, from 1989 to 1998. It produced new shows for nearly a decade, growing more popular as each season passed.
Jerry Seinfeld earned a reported $1 million per episode at the height of the show’s popularity. And The Seinfeld show has reportedly earned over $3 Billion in syndication since its last episode aired over 18 years ago. That’s worth repeating. The show has been off the air for almost two decades and has still managed to bring in over $3 Billion in revenue. And in 2002 TV Guide ranked Seinfeld as the greatest TV show of all time.
Now, that’s an insanely successful TV show.
When asked who Jerry Seinfeld is, what likely won’t come to mind is that before the success of his, now famous show, he had a pretty rough start. At his first stand-up comedy gig he reportedly walked on stage and completely froze in front of the crowd. He was eventually booed off the stage after several moments of painful silence, as the story goes.
Undeterred by failure, and wholly committed to his vision of making it as a stand-up comic, the young Jerry Seinfeld returned the following night and left the crowd laughing and applauding his performance. The rest, as they say, is history. Had young Seinfeld succumbed to the pain of failure and thought to himself “I guess I’m not cut out for this” history, as we know it, would look very different. There would have been no Kramer, no Elaine, and no Costanza. We would never have known the soup Nazi, nor would we have ever been able to bear witness to the entertaining rivalry between Newman and Jerry himself. That’s right, if Jerry Seinfeld had given into his epic stand-up failure and called it quits the history of the world would have turned out much differently; the history of American TV would have at least.
Failures are fingerposts on the road to achievement.
– C.S. Lewis
If I mention the name Steve Jobs to anyone these days I can assume that I will trigger a variety of reactions. “Business genius”, “successful entrepreneur”, “world-changing visionary”, are some of the many responses I might draw. I may even get a few negative ones such as “tyrannical CEO” or “insensitive jerk,” from the folks who weren’t fond of his personality flaws. Whatever your point of view regarding Steve Jobs the man, it’s nearly impossible to overlook the contributions that he made to the world. I’m writing this article on a MacBook Pro, my iPhone sits next to me and I have two iPads within my reach – an iPad 1 and an iPad 2.
It is quite evident that Steve Jobs leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of success. He’s arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs in the history of the world. His vision made it possible for a computer to fit in the palm of your hand. And his company has sold over 1 billion of those portable little computers.
Any businessperson can create a product and have success selling it. Steve Jobs’ true genius was in creating products that people didn’t know they wanted and then making them an essential part of their lives. I personally cannot go more than five minutes without looking at my iPhone. It’s hard to even believe that a product that didn’t exist before 2007 is something so indispensable to my life today.
Steve Jobs was a visionary and dynamic entrepreneur. That’s how we remember him today. But before his accomplishments, that paved the way for his legacy of success, exists a litany of failures. What many people may not know is that Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985. I know that the tech enthusiasts and Apple historians are likely very familiar with the story, but the younger iPhone users probably have no clue as to Steve Jobs’ many failures. This is something I wanted to learn for myself so I interviewed my younger sister Mary by text message (iPhone to iPhone). Mary is seventeen. She has had an iPhone as long as she’s had a cell phone. She has an iPad. And she’s a Macbook user. She typifies the younger generation of Apple users.
Here’s how our interview went:
The interview went pretty much as I suspected. My teenage sister, an avid Apple user, could tell me very simply who Steve Jobs was. He was the guy who invented Apple. This indicates that she was aware of who Steve Jobs was because of his success. The guy who invented Apple is a pretty successful guy, after all. But she was entirely unaware of his most epic failure when I questioned her about The Lisa computer.
Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street.
– Zig Ziglar
For those who are not familiar with The Lisa, it was a failed Apple computer and passion project of Steve Jobs. The Lisa project began in 1978 under Steve Jobs’ management and reportedly cost over $50 million to develop. It was incredibly overpriced at close to $10,000 per unit (and that was in the early 1980s). It launched in early 1983 and was discontinued by the summer of 1986. It goes down in history as one of Apple’s most significant commercial failures. Steve Jobs led the development of the project and was the manager in charge until he was kicked off the team in 1982 for taking too long to complete it and bleeding too much cash on the project. After being kicked off The Lisa team he became the lead on team Macintosh. The Macintosh was a revolutionary product for its time and prophetically illustrated the product genius of Steve Jobs, yet it failed to sell the way that Apple needed it to.
It was the failure of The Lisa and the poor sales of Macintosh, compounded with several other product failures, that ultimately led Apple’s board and CEO at the time, John Sculley, to fire Steve Jobs from Apple entirely. That’s correct. In 1985 Steve Jobs was essentially fired from the company he created as a result of his failure.
My intention is not to write a biography of Steve Jobs, so I’ll stop there. If you have an interest in the life of Steve Jobs I do highly recommend getting the book Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. It is a very interesting look at an incredibly complex individual.
In mentioning Steve Jobs, what I simply aim to illustrate is this: before Steve Jobs arrived at extraordinary success, he was guilty of remarkable failure.
Now, consider this…
What if Steve Jobs called it quits in 1985, hung up his entrepreneur hat and lived out his life in retirement. He very easily could have. He was young, super wealthy (his net worth was well over $200 million at the time), and would have been entirely justified to slip into a life of leisure and do whatever he pleased for the rest of his life. And I don’t think many people would have blamed him for choosing that route.
If Steve Jobs allowed his early failures at Apple to deter him, these would have been just some of the results:
Most obviously, we wouldn’t have iPods, iPhones, iPads, iTunes or the app store. That alone is nightmarish to think about.
We would never have been able to see Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. or any other Pixar film. That’s because after Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple in 1985, he used $70 million of his own money to buy Pixar from Lucas Films and turn it into one of the most successful computer animated film companies ever. As of 2016, Pixar’s films have grossed over $10.8 billion globally.
Had Jobs thrown in the towel we might not even have the internet. Gasp! Yes, you read that correctly: the flippin World Wide Web! The first website that was ever published on the World Wide Web was done by Tim Berners Lee using a Next Computer. Next is the computer company that Jobs started after being ousted from Apple. He spent 1985 mourning the loss of his job at Apple and doing some soul searching. Then he jumped right back into the arena and founded Next computers, which led to Pixar, and then back to Apple (Apple bought Next in 1996 for $450 million).
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
― J. K. Rowling
You Have Permission to Fail
I could go on and on about stories of failure. But, as I mentioned, I’m not really talking about failure. I’m writing about success. Failure is simply a part of the path to success. Sadly, I’ve seen many of the world’s most talented and gifted Christians become paralyzed by the fear of failure. They don’t put their skills to use because they are afraid to fail. My hope in telling these stories of failure, from some of the world’s most successful people, is that it will inspire you to live a life of unbridled passion to go out and do stuff! Start companies, write songs, invent things, create art – whatever your Creator puts on your heart! If you fail in the process, who cares! God is with you along the way. Pick yourself up, and try again or go try something else. The journey will lead to success, that much I am sure of.
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)